Bangladesh: Islamist sentenced to death for war crimes, sparking deadly protests (UPDATE)


Activists of the ruling party Bangladesh Awami league beat an activist of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (C) as they marched during a rally and vandalised vehicles in Dhaka on January 30, 2013. The Jamaat-e-Islami has called for a countrywide dawn-to-dusk shutdown on Thursday demanding an end to the war crimes trial and release of their top leaders.



At least 37 people have died and hundreds have been injured in violent protests in Bangladesh after Islamist leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee was sentenced to death, CNN reported

According to Al Jazeera, about 10,000 policemen were put on patrol to prevent such violence, with schools and shops closed. But that hasn't prevented tens of thousands of angry protesters from pouring into Dhaka's Shahbag Square. 

The protests come after a war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh has sentenced Delwar Hossain Sayedee to death for committing crimes against humanity during the country's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

Sayedee, who is the vice-president of the Jamaat-e-Islami party and an Islamic preacher, is the third person to be convicted by the International Crimes Tribunal, a Dhaka-based court.

News of Sayedee's death sentence wasn't just met with protests. There was also joyous celebration in Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital.

"The nation is now free of stigma," said Syed Haider Ali, the prosecutor in the case, AFP reported. According to Ali, the guilty verdict would bring justice to the thousands of people who had lost their relatives because of the pro-Pakistani militias run by Sayedee and other Jamaat leaders.

Yet the trials have also resulted in a series of angry demonstrations across Bangladesh, BBC reported.

On Thursday morning, police fired live rounds at Jamaat protestors, injuring five people.

However, the war crimes tribunal has been strongly criticized by Jamaat leaders and other opposition politicians, The New York Times reported.

According to them, the trials have been manipulated by the government. AFP reported that rights group say that the tribunal's legal procedures aren't up to international standards.